A “polyphony of voices”? : Czech popular opinion and the Slánský Affair’

MCDERMOTT, Kevin (2008). A “polyphony of voices”? : Czech popular opinion and the Slánský Affair’. Slavic Review, 67 (4), 840-865.

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The trial of Rudolf Slánský and his thirteen codefendants in Prague in November 1952 represented the culmination of Stalinist political terror in postwar central and eastern Europe. Ever since, it has attracted much scholarly attention focusing largely on the origins, processes, and outcomes of the trial. In this article, Kevin McDermott examines a crucial, but almost totally unresearched aspect of the affair: Czech popular reactions to Slánský’s arrest and trial. Using documents from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and secret police reports from the Ministry of Interior archives, McDermott demonstrates that popular opinion was extremely diverse, ranging from strident and selective support of the official version of the court proceedings; to passive compliance and resigned accommodation; to apathy, guarded dissent, and overt opposition. Two findings are particularly noteworthy: first, virulent antisemitic sentiment was endemic; and second, many workers, rank-and-file party members, and even lower-level functionaries were highly critical of the country’s communist leaders. In conclusion, McDermott proposes that the archival record reveals the relatively broad diffusion of antisemitism in Czech society, the limits of the “Stalinization” process in the Czechoslovak party, and the failure of Stalinist terror to intimidate the population into submission and eradicate independent thinking.

Item Type: Article
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Humanities Research Centre
Page Range: 840-865
Depositing User: Lorna Greaves
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2012 13:35
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 20:15
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/5902

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